MODERN BRITISH PLAYWRITING 2000-2009
Modern British Playwriting 2000-2009 is part of a new series of six volumes published by Bloomsbury/Methuen Drama, each book dealing with a decade of British theatre from the 1950s to the 2000s inclusive. The emphasis is on playwriting and the books are fairly strictly formatted to ensure consistency across the series. Each book contains an overview of the decade theatrically and culturally, essays (by various academics) on a small number of key writers, and a section of primary documents on these writers.
The cross-series formatting does mean straitjacketing each decade into a common pattern which might be a danger though in fact it seems relatively benign here. The only oddity is that certain playwrights get assigned to particular decades: so the series sees Caryl Churchill as a figure of the 1970s and Mark Ravenhill is confined to the 1990s.
In my volume, there are fine essays by Jackie Bolton on Simon Stephens, Michael Pearce on Roy Williams, Nadine Holdsworth on David Greig, Lynette Goddard on debbie tucker green, and I've also written on Tim Crouch's work. I've also written a (rather fun) overview of the social, cultural and political developments of the decade; it was surprisingly hard work to decide, with so little historical perspective, what the key developments were of such a recent period but the final result is something I'm rather pleased with, even if it is not perhaps the most high-level piece of scholarship. I realise as I talk to our new first years that they were born in 1995 and so much of the decade - 9/11, the dot.com bubble, Tony Blair, the Iraq War, and even the financial crash - are ancient history, so the piece will have some value. The critic and blogger Andrew Haydon has provided a really excellent, punchy and provocative overview of the theatrical developments of the year, which I'm delighted to see in there.
The documents section is very strong, I think. There are new interviews with David Greig and Roy Williams; both are very generous with their time and reflections on the work; the interview with Greig gives a lot of great insight into his own curious but fascinating writing method, his continual attempts to unwit his conscious mind. Greig, Williams, Stephens, and Crouch have been extremely generous with their unpublished writing. Tim Crouch has allowed us to publish an alternative ending for The Author and his own collated notes for the creative team as they planned An Oak Tree. Greig has offered working notes for Damascus, an alternative ending to the play, and private emails from its controversial middle-east tour. Williams gave me an alternative ending of Days of Significance, and Simon Stephens let us publish a whole series of short unpublished pieces of writing. debbie tucker green is reasonably enough protective of her process and prefers the work to speak for itself; instead I've gathered a few remarks from some the brief period when she was still giving interviews. It's a lovely volume, even if I do say so myself.
It was tough to write and I ultimately didn't get everything done on the book that I had planned. Every book in the series has a section 'introducing the playwrights'; this is intended to cover the full range of the playwrights' work and not simply the key plays from the decade that are given detailed discussion in the chapters. In the case of my playwrights, Crouch, Stephens, Williams and green wrote either all or the great majority of their work in the 2000s, so it felt less useful. In the event we went for a fairly simple statement about the writers. What I had thought to do was to place each within a particular context of theatrical work: Greig in Scottish theatre, Roy Williams in Black British theatre, debbie tucker green in poetic drama, Simon Stephens in a tradition of British naturalism, and Tim Crouch in a context of experimental performance writing. The idea was that these should not be exhaustive and certainly not to limit them (Stephens moved away from naturalism through the decade; Williams is a Black writer but not just a Black writer) but instead provide an angle on their work. I wrote three of these pieces and I think they work quite well. In the event, we didn't use them in the book so so I attach them below.
- Roy Williams & Black theatre in Britain
- David Greig & Scottish theatre
- debbie tucker green & poetic drama